Britain could turn into a “one-party Tory state” if Jeremy Corbyn continues as leader of the opposition Labour Party, the former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson has said.
And he said a credible alternative party of government was particularly necessary now, as a future general election could give the public a choice on whether to accept the outcome of negotiations with the EU after Brexit.
Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival, Mandelson, who along with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown helped to forge the “New Labour” project that saw the party win three elections in the 1990s and 2000s, said: “ Jeremy Corbyn has parked the Labour Party on the margins of British politics. If he continues as leader of the Labour Party we are going to go nowhere.
“We may even go worse, we may even split as a party. And as a result this country is going to turn into a one-party Tory state.”
The comments come as the party enters the second week of an ongoing leadership crisis. Dozens of members of its ministerial team have resigned in protest at Corbyn’s allegedly lackluster performance as leader, including his unenthusiastic campaigning for the “Remain” side in Britain’s EU referendum. Many are calling on Corbyn to stand down but he has so far refused, citing his large mandate among the party membership.
Mandelson described the situation as a “revolt.” He said: “After the referendum and what [Corbyn] did, or what he didn't do, in that referendum campaign that amounted to near sabotage of what the Labour party believes in was a terrible dereliction of leadership and of his responsibilities.
“And what you saw in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] afterwards was literally not a coup but a sort of revolt, it was a mass revolt on the part of Labour MPs because they'd absolutely had enough.”
Mandelson said the party had to make “A very basic choice: is it going to continue on the margins as a sort of protest organisation…or are we going to provide this country a serious alternative government?”
As a leading figure in the official pro-EU campaign Britain Stronger in Europe, Mandelson said he was devastated by the decision of the British public to vote to leave the EU by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
But he said: “I'm one of the 48 rather than the 52, but I don't believe the 48 can or should go away, the 48 have got to keep very much focused on where this goes from here.”
Asked if he was advocating a second referendum, he said: “I didn't say there would be a second referendum, I said we do not yet have an outcome to embrace and when we do as a result of this negotiation [with the EU] it’ll be up to the public to judge whether they want to embrace it or not.
“But you can do so via a general election...but only, and I just come back to this because I feel it so passionately…you only exercise your choice in a general election if there's a credible alternative to vote for.”